UPDATE: Daniel Morcombe's father has told his son's killer he picked the wrong family during a raw victim impact statement read out during Brett Peter Cowan's sentencing.
Bruce Morcombe told the Brisbane Supreme Court that Cowan's actions had ripped his family apart and he was haunted by thoughts of the "unspeakable" things he had done.
Denise Morcombe, in her statement, said she still had nightmares and was haunted by images of her son lying in "dark eerie bushland being destroyed by wild animals".
A Queensland jury today found Bunbury-born Cowan guilty of murdering Daniel more than 10 years ago.
Cowan was charged after an elaborate sting involved covert WA officers working with Queensland police.
The sophisticated undercover operation ran for four months before a WA operative elicited the confession from Cowan which was crucial to the case against Cowan in the Supreme Court.
Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Dawson today publicly acknowledged the valuable role played by WA police in the Daniel Morcombe murder investigation, which led to Cowan's conviction today.
"I think it is important to publicly acknowledge that there were dozens of West Australian police who worked tirelessly under very stressful conditions for many, many months," he said.
The jury, which retired about lunchtime yesterday, delivered its verdict to a packed public gallery after resuming deliberations for about four hours today.
Cowan, a 44-year-old father of two, was also convicted of indecently dealing with a child aged under 16 and interfering with a corpse.
Daniel’s parents, Bruce and Denise Morcombe, and the officers involved in the investigation were among those in the court room to hear the verdicts.
A statement on the website of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, set up by his parents to work for children's safety, after the verdict read: "Compelling evidence has proven beyond reasonable doubt Cowan's guilt. Thanks largely to the covert police involved and SES searchers plus scientific experts, a child killer has been exposed.
"On behalf of our entire family we thank everyone who has contributed to finding the answers and especially for never forgetting Daniel.
"Please support Daniel's legacy of Keeping Kids Safe through the initiatives of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation. Denise and Bruce x"
In the two earlier cases for which he was jailed, led a six-year-old boy from a Darwin caravan park in 1993 and sexually assaulted him and a few years earlier he sexually assaulted a seven-year-old boy in the toilet block of a community swimming pool in Queensland.
Cowan was originally charged with eight offences over the Northern Territory offence, including attempted murder. But he struck a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to a seven-year jail term for deprivation of liberty, grievous bodily harm and committing an aggravated act of gross indecency.
He was later transferred to a Queensland jail so he could be closer to family and was released on parole in April 1997.
He moved to the Sunshine Coast to live with his aunt and uncle, who were pastors at a Christian Outreach church.
Cowan, who has two children, moved to Perth in mid 2010, initially living in caravan parks before boarding at a Bullsbrook home at the time of his arrest in 2011.
On December 7, 2003, he enticed Daniel away from a bus stop on Kiel Road in the Glass House Mountains on December 7, 2003.
He took the 13-year-old to a secluded location and choked him after the teenager resisted his attempt to molest him.
He then stripped Daniel, dragged his body down an embankment, covered the lifeless teenager with branches and tossed his clothing into a creek.
Cowan was returning from giving evidence at an inquest into Daniel’s suspected murder when he was befriended by an undercover WA police officer and the carefully planned sting wasa put into action.
Over the next four months, officers posing as a brothel madam, prostitute, corrupt officials and members of a purported crime gang built a rapport with Cowan.
The covert operatives convinced Cowan he was becoming part of a gang which operated on a mantra of loyalty, honesty and respect and which could fix things and make any problem disappear.
The ruse was building up to a "big job" by the gang, a $1 million drug deal which promised to net Mr Cowan a $100,000 pay out.
At a meeting in the Swan River Room at Perth’s Hyatt Hotel in August 2011, the gang’s big boss “Arnold” elicited a secretly recorded confession from Cowan.
Arnold told Cowan a corrupt police officer had informed the gang that he was going to be served with a subpoena in relation to the case and the gang needed to be kept clean.
“Yeah, I did it,” Cowan admitted, telling Arnold he had offered the 13-year-old a lift to a shopping centre after a broken bus passed the Sunshine Coast stop.
“I took him to a secluded spot that I knew of. I never got to molest him or anything like that. He panicked and I panicked and I grabbed him around the throat and before I knew it, he was dead.”
Cowan later went on to describe killing Daniel as his “deepest, darkest secret” and led undercover police to the scene of the murder, believing they were checking to make sure no evidence had been left of his crime.
Cowan awaits sentencing by Justice Roslyn Atkinson.
Outside court today, Daniel's parents thanked those involved in the delivery of justice.
"We have to thank certainly all the covert police officers, the SES searchers, the scientific experts that all contributed to making sure a sex offender - a murderous sex offender - was caught and exposed for his actions,” Mr Morcombe said.